How to Survive Social Media Marketing in 2021 and Beyond

A step-by-step plan to create amazing content in a fraction of the time, AND daily action steps to stay on top of your social media marketing so it doesn’t derail your entire day.

It’s certainly been quite the year (coming up on two!) for small businesses around the world, and there’s no denying that social media marketing has played a huge part in the success and even failure of businesses, large and small. While many businesses took to experts to help them leverage social media marketing (specifically content marketing), as the landscape of commerce changed, many others were forced into a completely new type of marketing that they had never explored before.

DIY Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

Ok, so it’s all a little dramatic, but you get the idea. The businesses with larger marketing budgets easily and quickly hired in-house marketing help or social media managers, and others hired agencies (like us) to help them create and manage social media content. But what about the rest of BC small businesses? Where did they turn?

Some were fortunate enough to get the BC Small Business Recovery Grant, and others received the grant – both of which can be used for digital marketing and creating digital storefronts. But the vast majority of small business owners were left in the dark, trying to navigate the murky waters of ‘social media content marketing’.

The truth is, social media content marketing isn’t actually all that complicated, and anyone who tells you it is (spoiler alert), is likely trying to sell you something.

I’m going to break down the basics of social media content marketing for small business, and give you the best tools and tricks to save the most amount of time, and money!

There are 5 main elements to a strong social media content marketing strategy.

They are:

  1. An editorial calendar complete with proper content buckets (you can download a week of free sample content from my website which includes an editorial calendar template here)
  2. A social media content document
  3. Image and media templates
  4. A simple and effective content scheduling tool, and
  5. A daily checklist to keep you sane and on top of things

I’ll break each one of these elements down in a little more detail and give you some examples and places to download templates to save you some time!

Did you know that the average small business owner I chat with, spends 5-10 hours EVERY SINGLE WEEK creating social media content – wow! Imagine if you could accomplish creating gorgeous content in a fraction of that time and without all the hassle?! I create content in less than one hour a week and that includes creating the images to go with each post and scheduling it to my social media platforms. Yes… ONE hour. Not 2, not 3, not 10. ONE! This allows me to have peace of mind that everything is done and scheduled, and I can just pop in and out of social media once or twice a day to check for comments and messages that need to be tended to.

Ok, let’s go through each of the 5 elements of your strategy now…

1. An editorial calendar complete with proper content buckets.

An editorial calendar is a planning document that is your roadmap for all of your social media content at a high level. This is your BFF when it comes to planning and staying on top of your social media content game. This is where you (and your team if you have one), will add their ideas, upcoming promotions, upcoming blogs and newsletters, etc. It should be a collaborative document because it evolves and is a living, breathing document. You may have to edit and switch gears as things come up, so you always want this bad boy handy when looking at your content marketing.

Why do you need to have an editorial calendar?

  • You will save time

What if I told you that you can stop taking down notes on a piece of paper whenever you have an idea and trade it in for a calendar full of ideas ready to go? Having an editorial calendar gives you a space to organize your thoughts and ideas (bye bye notebooks!). If you already have the plan (roadmap) of WHAT you’re going to post and when, you can focus on creating the actual content itself and not log in to Facebook each day and think ‘gee, what should I post today?’

  • You will post more consistently

Being consistent and visible is the key to social media marketing for any small business. Your editorial calendar will force you to be consistent, and will keep you updated with events and occasions that you might want to celebrate or share with your audience online. Have you ever had something big to celebrate or a milestone that would have been just perfect to share with your social media audience but you remembered a month after it happened? Ya… me too. But not anymore with my editorial calendar because whenever I have something I need to remember to share, I plop it into the calendar and when I get to creating content for that week it’s already there for me. Phew!

  • It will help you with your overall marketing strategy

Your editorial calendar will help you align your content to your overall marketing goals and social media strategy.  Your content should fit within your content buckets, and your editorial calendar will help you make sure you are touching on each one throughout the week and month.

Ok, so let’s move on to how you can set up your own editorial calendar…

How to create an editorial calendar

  • Step 1: A social media audit (maybe)
    • If doing a social media audit is going to hold you up from getting started, skip this step! If you’re able to hire a professional to look at your social media channels and provide advice, this is a good time to do that while you’re getting things set up. This way they can give you real advice on what to create and when to create it so that you don’t waste time setting up campaigns that might not be of value to you and your business. Remember: Don’t let this step keep you from starting your actual calendar, but do plan on completing an audit at some point to help you get better with your social media marketing.
  • Step 2: Define your goals
    • Defining your goals is a must before you embark on a new social media content marketing strategy. It will prevent you from getting lost and will guide you in what type of content you will actually create. Think about your main priorities: Do you want to increase your followers? Do you want to attract more visitors to your website? Do you want to generate more leads? With this type of goal setting, you can then decide what type of content and media formats will help you in your content marketing journey.
  • Step 3: Decide on your content planning and management tools
    • There are many content planning and management tools available out there, you likely don’t need expensive software to map out and maintain your social media content and calendar, simple google sheets and google docs will probably do the trick! In fact, this is what we use for all of our clients and it works really well because they are collaborative tools that everyone can access at all times and add their own content and notes to.

Here’s a list of some of the more popular tools small businesses use in managing their social media content marketing (the bolded ones are the ones that I use myself and for my clients):

  1. Google Sheets
  2. Google Docs
  3. Google Calendar
  4. Microsoft Excel
  5. Microsoft Word
  6. Sendible
  7. Canva
  8. Loomly
  9. Trello
  10. Sprout Social
  11. Evernote
  12. Hootsuite Planner
  13. Agorapulse
  14. Coschedule
  • Step 4: Add your ideas
    • Now that you have decided what content planning tools to use, it’s time to set up and fill your calendar with your proper content buckets. What are content buckets? These are themes and topics that best fit your niche. Content buckets ensure the content you’re creating serves a purpose for your business.

Some content bucket examples:

  • Education: Educational content on what you do or how you do it, could be posts about ingredients, or even customer FAQs
  • People: Behind the scenes, meet the team, families, etc. – this is where people will relate to you
  • Community: showcase causes you care about or that your business supports, spread the love about other local businesses or brands you love
  • Service: This is where you tell people HOW to buy from you or work with you (definitely don’t forget this one!)

With the topics and ideas planned out, you’re on to writing post copy and designing or sourcing images – woohoo!

Who said that succeeding in social media is hard? It is only more challenging without the proper tools and systems – you’re getting so much closer with your editorial calendar and now your social media content document.

Pro-Tip: When you see a really successful social media account, keep in mind, they have likely been at this content marketing thing for a really long time, and in the beginning they most likely didn’t have a proper strategy or tools either – everyone starts somewhere. Just keep going!

2. The Social Media Content Document

This is where things start to take shape, and this is the document you’re going to use to craft the written part of your social media posts.

My social media content document is a google doc with a table that looks like this:

Ideally you would do your content an entire month at a time, but for many small businesses, weekly is ideal for them to fit it in. Write your content on a monday and schedule it for the week. Then you’re done till next week – woohoo!

If writing isn’t your thing, you can always hire someone to help you draft your posts (and images too) and then you can hop back into your document to approve things and/or schedule them when you’re ready. This is a great way to get some help without hiring an agency to manage it from start to finish which might not suit your budget right now.

3. Your Images and Templates

You made it! My recommendation is to always write all of your content before you create images not the other way around. Focus on the words, because that’s where the real value is for your audience, THEN find or create an image/video to go with it.

You can use photos you take yourself or have professionally taken, or you can purchase stock photography. Whatever you do… do NOT use free images from google. That can get you into big trouble when they are someone else’s images. Just save yourself the headache and don’t do that.

I use Canva and LOVE it. You can create templates of your own or leverage the huge existing database of templates and easily change the colours and fonts to match your own businesses branding. It’s extremely user friendly, and there’s a large batch of stock photography built right in so you never have to buy other photos if you use Canva pro.

Pro-Tip: at the end of each month, I like to make a copy of the previous month’s social media posts (wording) and the Canva image templates (a duplicate copy) and then I just change the info to something new for this month following the same theme. For example: If I had a ‘this vs. that’ post talking about ‘coffee vs. tea’ I might keep the graphic template, but change it to ‘texting vs. phone call’ to save time on the template itself.

4. Content Scheduling

There are a number of ways you can schedule your content in advance, but I’ll just tell you my top 2 ways since they will serve most small business owners well.

If you focus primarily on just Facebook and Instagram, then you can use Facebook creator studio to schedule to both platforms in advance. Some users even have access to the new business suite which allows you to schedule stories in advance. Facebook and Instagram rarely roll new features out to all accounts at once, so there’s a good chance you don’t have this feature (I still don’t many months after it was released).

By far my favourite way to schedule my content is using a tool called Sendible. There are many scheduling tools on the market, but this one is my favourite because it’s easy to use, and it schedules ALL of the networks I need, from one dashboard. From Sendible I am able to post to my Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Biz, LinkedIn and Twitter all in one area – it’s a massive time saver for me! It also has great reporting data and an activity feed that I can see my activity from all platforms in one spot (also a big time saver if I just need to hop in and make sure I’m not missing any comments or messages for my business).

If you want to do some more research on the best scheduling tool for you, just make sure that they are an official ‘facebook partner’. If they aren’t, steer clear!

5. Social Media Checklist

The very last thing you want to keep in mind is what you can do beyond creating and scheduling content to stay on top of social media for your small business.

If you don’t want to waste countless hours you’ll never get back by scrolling Instagram or TikTok when you only meant to log in to engage for a few minutes and then get out… then you need a daily social media checklist.

In its simplest form, it looks like this:

  1. Check your daily content posts (make sure the post you scheduled appears properly and links etc aren’t broken)
  2. Reply to any incoming messages
  3. Reply to any incoming comments
  4. Visit your groups to see if there’s anything you can engage with that would help others (I recommend 3-5 groups you are in MAX to combat overwhelm)
  5. If you have new followers that also interest you, follow them back. You can also send them a thank you message for following you

If you want to be ‘a little extra’ (haha) you can also check in on what your competitors are doing to see what they are posting. You don’t want to copy them, but you can certainly get ideas for what’s working for them and what you might want to try in the future. You can also use social listening tools to jump in on conversations that relate to your business but I would hold off on that until you have a really good handle on posting consistent content to create amazing visibility for your business.

Remember, for a small business, social media is a great channel to connect with your target audience. It is a big world. It can be overwhelming and scary sometimes but when used properly, the possibilities and opportunities are endless.

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